The Colorado Avalanche returned to action beating the St. Louis Blues 4-2 Thursday night. After having the last eight days off due to COVID protocols, the Avs shook off the rust after the first period and keep their eyes on the Vegas Golden Knights for first place in the West and the President’s Trophy.
With their regulation win tonight, the Avalanche with 12 games remaining officially clinch their spot in the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s the earliest they’ve clinched their spot in the dance in the last four years. They’ll look now to stay healthy and build momentum towards the ultimate prize.
As expected, there was some rust that needed to be shaken off to start this game. The Avs got off on the wrong foot when an early holding penalty by Brandon Saad was converted by Jaden Schwartz for a Blues power play goal.
The standout player of the period was Nathan MacKinnon, continuing to do what he does best. He looked as if he didn’t miss a beat and was doing his best to get his side into the action.
There were some chances for Saad and Carl Soderberg that were both denied by Jordan Binnington. There was not much offensive for either team in the period.
It looked as if the Avs would head into the break down a goal. After a great interception and pass from Tyson Jost, he found Saad in front of Binnington who put in five-hole past the netminder to make 1-1 heading into the break.
The Avs got a couple of power play chances right out of the gate. They really got their legs going at this point, doing everything but score on the first power play of the period.
The Avs would not have to wait long though. On their second power play, Cale Makar wristed one from the point off of the end boards that was cleaned up by Andre Burakovsky at the side of the net to give the Avs a 2-1 lead.
The Avs would get a total of three power plays in the period, all of them looking phenomenal and just not quite ending up on the score sheet. The Blues did not have much going forward for them either.
However, the penalties would continue at the end of the frame, but rather on the Avalanche. After a too many men penalty was killed off, the Avs would go right back on the PK after Soderberg was caught holding with about a minute left in the period. The penalty would carry over into the third period.
After the power play from the end of the second period was killed off, the penalties continued to rain down for both teams. This did not allow much 5v5 game action. On these power plays, the Blues looked threatening and hungry to tie the game.
It would not come to them. Rather, the Avs forced pressure in the offensive zone which lead to a beautiful passing play by the top line that saw Burakovsky get his second of the night and a 3-1 lead.
The Blues would respond soon after, when Schwartz got his second of the game that Devan Dubnyk should have stopped, as it squeezed through his right arm and dribbled in.
The Blues would continue to push forward to end the frame. Pierre Edouard-Bellemare would kill it off with an empty net goal and get the Avs a hard 4-2 win and a spot in the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 4th year in a row.
The biggest sore spot in this game was the amount of penalties taken by both teams. While the Avs got five power play chances, they gave St. Louis five power plays of their own. While each team was only 1/5, the Avs both need to convert on their chances and give their opponents less power play chances.
As expected, there was some rust on the team. By no means was this a perfect game in the eyes of Jared Bednar and his side. With this first game under their belt, the hope is that they can go on a run approaching the playoffs.
Jost was one of the best players for the Avalanche on the night. He got himself an assist on the first goal and is creating some wonderful chemistry with Saad on the third line. Chemistry and work ethic like that duo will take the Avs far going into the summer.
The Avs were missing a big piece of their offense in Mikko Rantanen due to COVID protocols. With him missing out, Nazem Kadri is the only player left on the team to play every game this season. The return of Rantanen could come as early as Saturday depending on COVID test results, but the anticipation of his return is growing as we come to an end of the season.
The Avs will stay in St. Louis for a Saturday matinee matchup for their second of three against the Blues. Puck drop is set for 1:00 PM MT on national TV(!) on NBC.